Author Interviews, Baylor College of Medicine Houston, Cognitive Issues, Sleep Disorders / 26.01.2015

Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D. Principal Investigator of the Sleep Neuroscience & Cognition (SNaC) Laboratory and an Assistant Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience Director Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory Baylor UniversityMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D. Principal Investigator of the Sleep Neuroscience & Cognition (SNaC) Laboratory and an Assistant Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience Director Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory Baylor University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Scullin: One of the purposes of sleep in healthy adults is to optimize cognitive functioning. When we lose out on a few hours of sleep we tend not to be able to focus or think as well as when we get enough sleep (typically 8 hours). Even more interesting is that particular aspects of sleep physiology—our deepest levels of sleep known as slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep—are essential to our brain’s ability to take the information that we learn during the day and stabilize those memories so that we can use them in the future. Sleep quantity and quality change markedly across the lifespan, though there are individual differences in how much one’s sleep changes. Our work was concerned with the possible long-term repercussions of cutting back on sleep and getting lower quality sleep (less slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep).  We reviewed approximately 200 scientific articles on this topic and we found that the amount of total sleep and the quality of that sleep is important to cognitive and memory functioning in young adults and middle-aged adults and can even predict how well someone’s cognitive functioning will be decades later. Thus, if you’re sleeping well when you are 40 then you are investing in preserving your mental functioning at age 50. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Mental Health Research, Scripps / 25.01.2015

Dr. Gavin Rumbaug Professor (Associate) The Scripps Research InstituteMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Gavin Rumbaug Professor (Associate) The Scripps Research Institute Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We have developed a genetic approach that protects animal models against a type of genetic disruption that causes intellectual disability, including serious memory impairments and altered anxiety levels. The findings focus on treating the effects of mutations to a gene known as Syngap1. In our new study, we examined the effect of damaging Syngap1 mutations during development and found that the mutations disrupt a critical period of neuronal growth—a period between the first and third postnatal weeks in mouse models. We found that a certain type of cortical neuron grows too quickly in early development, which then leads to the premature formation of certain types of neural circuits. These findings help explain why genetic treatments in adult mice are not very effective. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 23.01.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: David P.G. van den Berg PhD student Clinical Psychologist Cognitive behavioural therapist Parnassia Psychiatric Institute Early Detection and Intervention Team (EDIT) Zoutkeetsingel, The Netherlands Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The last decade it has become clear that many people with psychotic disorders suffered severe childhood trauma. These experiences enhance chances of developing psychosis, but also result in comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is highly prevalent in patients with psychotic disorders and negatively influences prognosis and wellbeing. Prolonged Exposure (PE) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) are highly effective treatments and recommended as first choice treatments in PTSD guidelines worldwide. Although there is no evidence to support this, patients with psychosis are excluded from PTSD treatment due to fear of destabilization or psychotic decompensation. Moreover, psychosis is the most used exclusion criterion in PTSD trials. This is the first randomized clinical trial (RCT) of the efficacy of PTSD treatment in psychosis. In this RCT 155 patients with a psychotic disorder and comorbid PTSD were randomly assigned to PE, EMDR or Waiting List (WL). In the treatment conditions participants received 8 sessions of 90-minutes therapy. Standard protocols were used. Treatment was not preceded by stabilizing psychotherapeutic interventions or skills training. The first session comprised psycho-education about PTSD and target selection. In sessions 2 to 8 traumas were treated, starting with the most distressing experience. Baseline, post-treatment and 6-month follow-up assessments were made. Participants in both PE and EMDR showed greater reduction of PTSD symptoms than those in WL. Between group effect sizes were large. About sixty percent of the participants in the treatment groups achieved loss of diagnosis. Treatment effects were maintained at six-month follow-up for both PE and EMDR. Treatments did not result in serious adversities. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Exercise - Fitness / 21.01.2015

Dr. Liana Machado PhD Department of Psychology Brain Health Research Centre University of Otago  Dunedin New ZealandMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Liana Machado PhD Department of Psychology Brain Health Research Centre University of Otago  Dunedin New Zealand Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: A large body of data indicates links between chronic physical activity levels and cognitive performance in healthy populations. Although the bulk of evidence comes from studies in older adults, a number of studies have established links in children and in young adults. However, the mechanisms supporting the exercise-cognition links have remained unclear. Finding from an earlier study of ours, published in the journal Neuropsychology, pointed toward cerebrovascular factors as potentially important. In our new study in Psychophysiology, we found evidence suggesting that higher oxygen availability in the brain is one of the cerebrovascular factors that helps support better cognitive performance in people who exercise more regularly, thus providing important insight toward understanding why cognitive performance improves with regular exercise. (more…)
Author Interviews, Baylor College of Medicine Houston, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 21.01.2015

M. Justin Coffey MD Associate Professor Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Baylor College of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with: M. Justin Coffey MD Associate Professor Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Baylor College of Medicine MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Coffey: Although both the US Surgeon General and the Institute of Medicine have called on health care systems to reduce suicide, the few assessments of suicide in such systems have examined only specific patient groups and not the entire population of health plan members. Our study reports the first information on suicide for the entire membership of a large health maintenance organization (HMO). The findings provide a previously unavailable baseline data for health care systems who are engaged in important efforts to measure and prevent suicide. We identified all suicides among the entire membership of our HMO network between 1999 and 2010, determining the date and cause of death using official state mortality records. In our sample, the annual suicide rate among all HMO members (including non-patient members) did not change over time, whereas the annual suicide rate in the general population of the state of Michigan increased significantly. Importantly, suicides actually decreased among HMO members who received specialty mental health services, whereas suicides increased among HMO members who accessed general medical services but not specialty mental health services.   (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, Inflammation / 21.01.2015

Alan I Faden, M.D. David S. Brown Professor in Trauma Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Neurosurgery, and Neurology Director, Center for Shock, Trauma & Anesthesiology Research (STAR) University of Maryland School of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Alan I Faden, M.D. David S. Brown Professor in Trauma Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Neurosurgery, and Neurology Director, Center for Shock, Trauma & Anesthesiology Research (STAR) University of Maryland School of Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Faden: Accumulating clinical and pre-clinical research data indicate that traumatic brain injury (TBI) can lead to chronic progressive neurodegeneration. In this regard, most attention has focused on the connections between TBI and with Alzheimer disease (AD) or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). However, recent epidemiological studies raise questions about the association between TBI and AD, and CTE is likely a less common end-stage result resulting from complex pathobiological changes. In contrast, both older and newer studies underscore that traumatic brain injury can cause chronic neuroinflammation that leads to chronic neurodegeneration. In contrast to AD and CTE, the latter condition appears to be potentially treatable, even long after injury. Our paper critically assesses the mechanisms and treatment of chronic post traumatic neurodegeneration. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics, Social Issues / 20.01.2015

Ji Su Hong, MD  Department of Psychiatry Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, MOMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Ji Su Hong, MD  Department of Psychiatry Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, MO   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Ji Su Hong: The estimated prevalence of preschool conduct disorder is 3.9%-6.6%. Approximately 1 out of 20 preschoolers has conduct disorder. Disruptive behaviors are common in the preschool period of development. However, to date we have not had scientific data to help guide clinicians to distinguish  between normal disruptive behaviors in preschoolers and behaviors that are markers of later Conduct disorder at school age. There were common misbehaviors which were found in preschoolers with mental health problems as well as healthy preschoolers. Those were losing temper, low intensity destruction of property and deceitfulness/stealing. Preschoolers who exhibited high-intensity defiant behavior, aggression toward people or animals, high-intensity destruction of property, peer problems and deceitfulness, including stealing, were more likely to have preschool conduct disorder and they were more likely to be diagnosed with a conduct disorder at school-age. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, Medicare, Mental Health Research, Pharmacology / 16.01.2015

Dr. Jeanne Madden PhD Instructor, Department of Population Medicine Harvard Medical SchoolMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Jeanne Madden PhD Instructor, Department of Population Medicine Harvard Medical School   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Madden: When Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage started in 2006, many experts voiced concerns about disabled patients with serious mental illness making the transition from state Medicaid coverage to Medicare.  Our study is one of the first to examine the impact of the transition in mentally ill populations.  People living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are at high risk of relapse and hospitalization and are especially vulnerable to disruptions in access to their treatments. We found that the effects of transitioning from Medicaid to Medicare Part D depended on where patients lived.  Transition to Part D in states that put limits on Medicaid drug coverage resulted in fewer patients going without treatment. By contrast, in states with more generous drug coverage, we saw reductions in use, of antipsychotics in particular, after patients shifted to Medicare Part D.  This may have been due to new cost controls used within many private Medicare drug plans.  Given that most states in the US are in this latter category, with the relatively generous Medicaid drug coverage, we also found reductions in antipsychotic use nation-wide. Although a very large group of people made that transition from Medicaid to Medicare in 2006, thousands more still transition every year because when disabled people qualify for Medicare, they must wait 2 years for their benefits kick in.  Also, many other disabled patients are on Medicaid only and don’t qualify for Medicare.  They are of course affected by restrictions on Medicaid coverage, which vary from state to state. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, PTSD, UCLA / 15.01.2015

Armen K. Goenjian, M.D., L.D.F.A.P.A., F.A.C.G.S. Research Professor of Psychiatry Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLAMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Armen K. Goenjian, M.D., L.D.F.A.P.A., F.A.C.G.S. Research Professor of Psychiatry Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Response: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that develops after exposure to a traumatic event such as rape, war, natural disaster, and accident. Symptoms include recurrent intrusive traumatic memories, flashbacks, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, jumpiness, and anxiety. Dopaminergic and serotonergic systems have been implicated in PTSD. Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is an enzyme that degrades dopamine, an important brain neuro-hormone that regulates human behavior, thoughts and emotions.  Tryptophan hydroxylase is the rate limiting step in the synthesis of serotonin, another important neuro-hormone that regulates arousal, sleep, anxiety, and mood. This study evaluated the association of four COMT gene loci, and the joint effect of COMT and tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH-2) genes on PTSD symptoms. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, PNAS / 14.01.2015

Dr Christos Pliatsikas PhD Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology School of Psychology University of Kent Canterbury KentMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr Christos Pliatsikas PhD Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology School of Psychology University of Kent Canterbury Kent Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: It has been proposed that lifelong bilingualism preserves the white matter structure of older bilinguals because of the increased cognitive demands that come with handling two languages for their entire life. We wanted to extend this by investigating whether active (or "immersive") bilingualism in younger late bilinguals would give similar results. We showed increased white matter integrity (or myelination) in several white matter tracts that have also been shown to be better preserved in older lifelong bilinguals, compared to monolinguals.  Based on our findings, we propose that any benefit of bilingualism to the brain structure is simply an effect of actively handling two languages without presupposing lifelong usage- our participants were only about 30 years old and had been active bilinguals for only about 7-8 years. In other words, immersive bilingualism, even in late bilinguals, leads to structural changes that can bring about benefits in older age, by assisting in the preservation of the white matter structure in the brain. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Pediatrics, Pediatrics / 13.01.2015

Terisa P. Gabrielsen, PhD, NCSP Assistant Professor, School Psychology Dept. of Counseling Psychology and Special Education Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Terisa P. Gabrielsen, PhD, NCSP Assistant Professor, School Psychology Dept. of Counseling Psychology and Special Education Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Gabrielsen: One of the keys to improving outcomes for individuals with outcomes is to begin intervention as early as possible, which means we need to identify autism symptoms as early as possible, preferably during the early toddler years.  The current study grew out of a screening feasibility study to see what would happen if pediatricians followed the AAP guidelines for screening every child for autism at ages 18 and 24 months as part of their regular pediatric care appointments.  That study  was conducted in a large, independent community pediatrics practice.  We found that universal screening of 796 patients helped to identify 10 toddlers with autism who had not previously been referred for evaluations.  Physicians had previously identified 3 others with autism in the group, and toddlers with other delays, such as language delays, were also identified through the screening process.  We wondered what some possible causes were for the low rate of autism referrals and designed the current study to look for what information was available to a pediatrician during the timespan of a typical pediatric exam.  We found that even in toddlers with autism, a brief (10-minute) sample contains an overwhelming ratio of typical behaviors (averaging 89%) compared to infrequent atypical behaviors (11%)  that would indicate the presence of autism.  We had autism experts identifying the behaviors from videos of the evaluations of children in the previous study, so they had many luxuries that a clinician doesn't have during an exam (i.e., ability to focus on one aspect of development, ability to rewind and re-view behaviors).  After watching the 10-minute video observations, we asked our experts, "Would you refer this child for an autism evaluation?"  We found that even the experts missed referring a child for an autism evaluation 39% of the time when the only data available were the brief observations. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research, University of Pittsburgh / 06.01.2015

Dr. Brent David MD Academic Chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics & Epidemiology University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Brent David MD Academic Chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics & Epidemiology University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. David: There are now many studies that show that suicide and suicidal behavior run in families. A family history of suicide increases the risk for suicide attempt and vice versa, so that we believe that the trait that is being passed from parent to child is a tendency to act on suicidal thoughts, resulting in either an attempt or an actual suicide. However, what was not not known was the mechanism by which parents transmitted the risk of suicidal behavior to their children, and what the precursors of suicidal behavior looked like in individuals who were at risk for suicidal behavior, but had not yet engaged in a suicide attempt. Therefore, we conducted a high-risk family study, in which studied the children of parents with mood disorders, about half of whom also had a history of a suicide attempt. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. David: We followed 701 offspring for an average of 5.6 years, and found that those offspring whose parents had made a suicide attempt were almost 5 times more likely to make a suicide attempt themselves, even after accounting for mood disorder in parent and child and past suicidal behavior in the offspring. We found three main pathways by which suicidal behavior was passed from parent to child:
  • Parental mood disorder was transmitted to children, and that was a precursor of a suicide attempt.
  • Parent attempt was related to offspring impulsive aggression, which in turn increased the risk for mood disorder, which then increased the likelihood of a suicide attempt. (We define impulsive aggression as a tendency to response with hostility or aggression to provocation or frustration.
  • Finally, there is a direct path from parent attempt to child attempt, with no precursors or intervening variables.
Implications for clinicians and patients:
  • First, these findings highlight that a parental history of a suicide attempt increases the risk of an attempt in the parent's children. Clinicians who take care of adults who have attempted suicide should make sure that children are assessed as they are at increased risk and that parents know what to look for in the future in order to get their children into needed treatment.
  • Second, the transmission of suicidal behavior from parent to child can be attenuated by preventing the transmission of mood disorder, and of impulsive aggression. There are now evidence based interventions that reduce the likelihood of a child of a depressed parent from developing depression; these treatment involve cognitive behavioral principles and may also involve family interventions. There are now good family-based interventions for impulsive aggression that can attenuate the risk that the child or adolescent will go on to develop a mood disorder, which in turn greatly increases the risk for suicidal behavior.
(more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Schizophrenia / 06.01.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Toshiaki A. Furukawa, MD, PhD Professor and Chair, Department of Health Promotion and Human Behavior Professor, Department of Clinical Epidemiology Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine / School of Public Health, Yoshida Konoe-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Japan Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Furukawa: The efficacy of antidepressants in the treatment of depressive disorders has recently been called into question as some studies suggested they may have less efficacy for the milder spectrum of the disorder. It is not known if the same would apply to antipsychotics, which constitute the mainstay in the treatment of schizophrenia. We found that, in patients with schizophrenia with acute treatment as well as with predominant negative symptoms, the severer the baseline severity, the greater the magnitude of the benefit from the active treatment in comparison with placebo. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research, UCSF / 06.01.2015

Dr. Georges Naasan MD Neurologist, Clinical Instructor UCSF Memory and Aging CenterMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Georges Naasan MD Neurologist, Clinical Instructor UCSF Memory and Aging Center Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Naasan: Degenerative diseases of the brain can lead to dysfunction in judgment, emotional processing, social decorum and self-awareness. In turn, such dysfunctions may result in criminal behavior that appears for the first time in middle-aged adults or even later in life. We studied 2397 patients from the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF and found 204 (8.5%) that had a criminal behavior as part of their illness. The large majority of these patients were patients with a specific type of neurodegenerative disease called behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia, followed by a group of people with a disease called semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia. People with Alzheimer's disease, a disease that does not usually interrupt the functions mentioned above, were the least likely to exhibit criminal behavior. The common manifestation of criminal behaviors in people with the behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia included theft, sexual advances trespassing and public urination in contrast to people with Alzheimer's disease who, when such behaviors were present, primarily committed traffic violations often secondary to cognitive impairment. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Heart Disease / 05.01.2015

Nancy L. Sin, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow Center for Healthy Aging & Department of Biobehavioral Health The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Nancy L. Sin, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow Center for Healthy Aging & Department of Biobehavioral Health The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Sin: Older patients with coronary heart disease often experience declines in functional status, which is the ability to perform daily activities such as bathing, walking, and doing housework. The key factors that contribute to functional status among cardiac patients are not well-understood. Previous studies have found only weak or no associations between cardiovascular disease severity and functional status. Psychological factors—such as depression—are known to increase the risk of functional impairment, but this has not been studied long-term in patients with coronary heart disease. It is unclear the extent to which long-term functional status is determined by psychological factors versus cardiovascular disease severity. The purpose of our study was to compare the contributions of depressive symptoms with those of cardiovascular disease severity (specifically, left ventricular ejection fraction, exercise capacity, and angina frequency) for predicting subsequent functional decline in 960 older adults with stable coronary heart disease. Across a 5-year period, people who had more severe depressive symptoms were at greater risk of functional decline, independent of cardiovascular disease severity, demographics, health behaviors, cognitive function, and other factors.  Low exercise capacity was also strongly related to future functional decline, but ejection fraction and angina frequency were not. These findings underscore the importance of considering both mental and physical health in determining long-term functional status. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics / 01.01.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Joseph A Simonetti, MD MPH Research Fellow Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center University of Washington Seattle, WA, USA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Simonetti: Studies have consistently shown that children living in households where firearms are stored safely have a lower risk of suffering firearm injuries, including lethal firearm injuries, compared to those living in households where firearms are stored unlocked and/or loaded. Safe firearm storage is widely recommended by public health experts, professional medical societies, and gun rights organizations, especially for households where children might be suffering from mental heath and substance abuse issues that put them at increased risk for suicide or unintentional injury. Our goal was to find out if those recommendations were being effectively implemented in the community. To do this, we used survey data that assessed mental health conditions and firearm access among a nationally representative sample of US adolescents. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Simonetti: First, we confirmed previous findings that a large proportion of US adolescents have access to a firearm in the home. Of those who reported living in a home with a firearm, 40% said they could immediately access and shoot the firearm. Second, the prevalence of most mental health diagnoses was similar between adolescents who did and did not report firearm access. However, a greater proportion of adolescents with firearm access had drug and alcohol disorders compared to adolescents who reported living in a home with a firearm but did not have access to the firearm. The main finding was that children with mental health risk factors for suicide were just as likely to report in-home firearm access as those without identified risk factors. This finding held true even when comparing firearm access between children with no identified risk factors and those who reported a recent suicide attempt, who arguably have the highest suicide risk in this sample. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Depression, Primary Care / 31.12.2014

Patrick Monahan, Ph.D. Associate Professor Indiana University School of Medicine and School of Public HealthMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Patrick Monahan, Ph.D. Associate Professor Indiana University School of Medicine and School of Public Health Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Monahan: Primary care providers need a clinical practical (e.g., brief, inexpensive, simple, user-friendly, easily standardized, and widely available) multidomain instrument to measure and monitor the cognitive, functional, and psychological symptoms of patients suffering from multiple chronic conditions. The tool also needs to be sensitive to change so that providers can use it to monitor patient outcomes and adjust the care plan accordingly. We created such a tool and then investigated its psychometric properties (in other words, reliability and validity) in our study of 291 older patients (aged 65 and older) who had at least one recent visit to our urban primary care clinics in Indianapolis, Indiana. These patients had presented with evidence of cognitive or depression problems because these patients and their caregivers were participating in a collaborative care model for such patients. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Monahan: The Healthy Aging Brain Care (HABC) Monitor demonstrated excellent reliability and validity in this study where patients self-reported their symptoms. Our previous study also showed excellent reliability and validity of the HABC Monitor when the patients’ symptoms were reported by their informal caregiver. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Sleep Disorders / 31.12.2014

Jacob Nota M.S. Binghamton Anxiety Clinic Department of Psychology Binghamton University Binghamton, NY 13902MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Jacob Nota M.S. Binghamton Anxiety Clinic Department of Psychology Binghamton University Binghamton, NY 13902 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: As psychologists we are interested in helping individuals improve their quality of life and reduce their symptoms. We know that many people, including those with anxiety and mood disorders, are bothered by repetitive negative thoughts that feel like they are out of control. We are always looking for new ways that we might be able to reduce these kinds of symptoms. We are specifically interested in learning more about how sleep relates to psychopathology because an extensive literature documents the cognitive and emotional impact of sleep disruption. Therefore, addressing sleep disruption may be another avenue for us to explore for helping out clients. However, there is relatively little research on the relation between sleep timing and psychopathology compared to that studying the relation between sleep duration and psychopathology, despite previous studies showing that individuals who go to bed later than they want to have more disorders characterized by worry, rumination, and obsessing. This study collected cross-sectional data (i.e., measuring sleep, worry, rumination, and obsessing all at the same point in time) from a group of 100 young adults at Binghamton University. We looked at measures of worry, rumination, and obsessing as well as a newer measure of the process thought to be shared across these psychological phenomena (repetitive negative thinking). We found that people who sleep for shorter amounts of time and go to bed later also have greater levels of worry, rumination, and obsessing. This is called repetitive negative thinking (RNT). We also found that individuals who are classified as "evening type" (i.e., tend to stay up later and shape their daily activities around this schedule), a trait that is linked to biological circadian rhythms, report significantly greater levels of repetitive negative thinking compared to individuals who are "morning" or neither type (i.e., not strongly morning or evening). This is one of the first studies to show that repetitive negative thinking is related to both how long you sleep and when you sleep. (more…)
Author Interviews, Exercise - Fitness, Geriatrics, Memory / 29.12.2014

Scott M. Hayes, Ph.D. Associate Director Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center Memory Disorders Research Center VA Boston Healthcare System Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Boston University School of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Scott M. Hayes, Ph.D. Associate Director Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center Memory Disorders Research Center VA Boston Healthcare System Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Boston University School of Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hayes:   Studies with rodents have demonstrated that physical activity positively impacts memory, whereas human studies have tended to emphasize a relationship with executive function—which refers to one’s ability to plan, organize, and manipulate information in one’s mind.  To clarify the relationship between fitness, cognition, and aging, we directly assessed cardiorespiratory fitness (heart and lung function) using the gold standard in the field, a graded treadmill test, and assessed both memory and executive functions in young and older adults.  Our results showed that cardiorespiratory fitness was positively associated with memory and executive functions in older adults, but not young adults.  In fact, on tests of executive functions, older adults with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness performed as well as younger adults. The impact of cardiorespiratory fitness may be age-dependent.  Young adults, who are at their peak in terms of memory performance, may exhibit minimal associations with cardiorespiratory fitness.  In contrast, cardiorespiratory fitness likely has a larger impact in older adults by attenuating age-related decline in memory. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Weight Research / 26.12.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Xiaoling Xiang School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, IL 61801 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The adverse health consequences of obesity have been well documented, but the psychological risks of obesity are less clear. The study examined the long-term impact of obesity on the onset of depression in a sample of middle-aged and older adults who were initially free of clinically relevant depressive symptoms. We found that being overweight or obese significantly predicted onset of clinically relevant depressive symptoms during the 16 years of follow-up. Unhealthy weight appeared to have a stronger, adverse impact on depressive symptoms among females and non-Hispanic whites compared with their male and ethnic minority counterparts. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Toxin Research / 23.12.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Raanan Raz, PhD Visiting Scientist Harvard School of Public Health Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Raz: Air pollution contains various toxicants that have been found to be associated with neurotoxicity and adverse effects on the fetus in utero. Several studies have explored associations of air pollution with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). These studies suggest increased chances of having a child with autism spectrum disorders with higher exposures to diesel particulate matter (PM), criteria pollutants and some organic materials as well as closer proximity to a freeway. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Metabolic Syndrome / 22.12.2014

Prof. Giovambattista Desideri Università degli Studi dell'Aquila Direttore  UOC Geriatria e Lungodegenza Geriatrica Scuola di Specializzazione in Geriatria Scuola di Specializzazione in Medicina d'Emergenza-UrgenzaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof. Giovambattista Desideri Università degli Studi dell'Aquila Direttore  UOC Geriatria e Lungodegenza Geriatrica Scuola di Specializzazione in Geriatria Scuola di Specializzazione in Medicina d'Emergenza-Urgenza Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Desideri: Over the past decade, there has been an accumulating body of evidence that indicates that the consumption of cocoa flavanol-containing products can improve vascular function. Though much research has focused on the cardiovascular system, there is reason to believe that some of the benefits of cocoa flavanol consumption could extend also to the brain which is a heavily vascularized tissue that depends on regular blood flow to meet its metabolic demands. Thus, the current study tested the hypothesis that the regular inclusion of cocoa flavanols for 8 weeks could positively affect cognitive function in cognitively-intact older adults. The effects of cocoa flavanol ingestion on various cardiometabolic endpoints, including blood pressure and insulin sensitivity, were also evaluated given consistent evidence of positive effects of flavanols on these outcomes and the potentially influential role of these outcomes on cognitive function. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Desideri:The study enrolled 90 men and women aged 61-85 years with no evidence of cognitive dysfunction who were assigned to one of three flavanol groups, consuming a drink containing high (993 mg), intermediate ( 520 mg) or low (48 mg) amounts of cocoa flavanols every day for 8 weeks. Among those individuals who regularly consumed either the high-or intermediate-flavanol drinks, there were significant improvements in some measures of age-related cognitive dysfunction.  In the high- and intermediate-flavanol groups, both systolic and diastolic blood pressures were reduced and insulin resistance was significantly improved.   It is not yet fully understood how cocoa flavanols bring about improvements in cognitive function, but the study results suggest that the improvements in insulin resistance and blood pressure could be revealing. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, NYU / 17.12.2014

Uzma Samadani, MD. PhD. FACS. Chief Neurosurgeon New York Harbor Health Care System Co-Director Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for PTSD and TBI Assistant Professor Departments of Neurosurgery, Psychiatry and Physiology & Neuroscience New York University School of Medicine New York , NY 10010MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Uzma Samadani, MD. PhD. FACS. Chief Neurosurgeon New York Harbor Health Care System Co-Director Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for PTSD and TBI Assistant Professor Departments of Neurosurgery, Psychiatry and Physiology & Neuroscience New York University School of Medicine New York , NY 10010 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Samadani: Eye tracking has been used for 30 years to investigate where people look when they follow particular visual stimuli.  Tracking has not, however, been previously used to assess underlying capacity for eye movement.  We have developed a very unique eye tracking algorithm that assesses the capacity of the brain to move the eyes. What we show in this paper is that with our eye tracking algorithm we can show (1) normal people have eye movements that, within a particular range, have equal capacity for vertical and horizontal movement, (2) people with specific weaknesses of the nerves that move the eyes up and down have decreased vertical capacity, (3) people with weaknesses in the nerves that move the eyes to the side have decreased horizontal capacity, (4) swelling in the brain can affect the function of these nerves and be detected on eye tracking, (5) eye tracking may be useful as a potential biomarker for recovery from brain injury. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Genetic Research, JAMA / 13.12.2014

David H. Ledbetter, Ph.D., FACMG Executive Vice President & Chief Scientific Officer, Geisinger Health System Danville, PA 17822MedicalResearch.com Interview with: David H. Ledbetter, Ph.D., FACMG Executive Vice President & Chief Scientific Officer, Geisinger Health System Danville, PA 17822 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Ledbetter: One of the biggest challenges in clinical care and research of children with autism and related neurodevelopment disorders is the remarkable clinical variability between individuals. This heterogeneity is reduced, but still significant, when considering individuals who have neurodevelopment disorders due to the identical genetic mutation such as deletion 16p11.2. We proposed that family background, genetic or environmental, may contribute to the variability in cognitive, behavioral and motor performance profiles of children with a sporadic (new) mutation in 16p11.2. Our study confirmed that a significant portion of the clinical variability seen in these children is due to the performance level of their parents and unaffected siblings and suggested that this may be due in part to genetic background effects as these traits are all known to have very high heritability. (more…)
Addiction, ADHD, Author Interviews / 13.12.2014

William Brinkman, MD, MEd, MSc Associate Professor of Pediatrics Director, Research Section, Division of General & Community Pediatrics Research Director, Cincinnati Pediatric Research Group James M. Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterMedicalResearch.com Interview with: William Brinkman, MD, MEd, MSc Associate Professor of Pediatrics Director, Research Section, Division of General & Community Pediatrics Research Director, Cincinnati Pediatric Research Group James M. Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Dr. Brinkman: Early onset of substance use is a significant public health concern as those who use substances before the mid-teen years are more likely to develop dependence than those who start later. The association of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder (CD) with tobacco and alcohol use has not been assessed in a young adolescent sample representative of the U.S. population. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, NEJM / 13.12.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Brett E. Skolnick PhD Department of Neurosurgery Cushing Neuroscience Institute Hofstra North Shore–LIJ School of Medicine, Manhasset, NY Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Skolnick: The experimental evidence for a role of progesterone is based on extensive non-clinical studies in non-primate species (4 animal species such as rat, mice) the majority of which indicate that progesterone has a variety of neuroprotective properties. The animal models of injury in traumatic brain injury (TBI) have included models of blunt trauma, fluid percussion injury, cortical aspiration but similar effects have been seen stroke models and models of spinal cord injury. In these experiments progesterone has been shown to reduce cerebral edema thus limiting the effects or preventing intracranial pressure increases which can lead to secondary injury. Progesterone has also been shown to exert anti-inflammatory, anti-apopotic and perhaps even anti-oxidant effects. All of these effect are postulated to work synergistically to prevent cell death which could result in improved functional outcomes. Two small single center clinical trials provided the support in traumatic brain injury patients that progesterone could have impact on functional outcomes in larger, properly powered trials.  The results of which are summarized in the NEJM article. In the current trial evaluated the Glasgow Outcome Scale and the extended version of the Glasgow Outcome scale at 6 months following injury. These scales are well validated scales that are used to determine the degree of recovery in terms of disability and handicap due to TBI rather than the degree of impairment. The GOS has 5 levels: death, vegetative state, severe disability, moderate disability and good recovery with death and vegetative state typically collapsed because they are considered equally undesirable. The Extended GOS takes the three best levels of recovery and subdivides these into a upper and lower category to increase the granularity of the outcome measure. Progesterone was administered within 8 hour of injury (loading dose followed by continuous infusions) for a total of 120 hours.  Careful assessments were performed to ensure optimal patient management during the trial to provide the best background to evaluate the impact of the addition of progesterone or placebo (1  to 1 randomization).  No effect was seen on the GOS or the extended GOS. In addition a fairly new approach of categorizing patients based on prognostic factors known at time of randomization (such as Age, baseline GCS, pupillary response, hypoxia, hypotension, Marshall Classification or presence/absence of subarachnoid hemorrhage) as developed by Hukkelhoven and colleagues was used. This was expected to tease out improvements, if they existed in subgroups of patients where perhaps progesterone could work better in the most severe or less severe traumatic brain injury patients. But again no effects were seen. The unfavorable outcomes (see NEJM paper for details) were essentially identical between progesterone and placebo groups whether they had the worst prognosis or the best prognosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Erasmus, JACC, Memory, Stroke / 13.12.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: M. Arfan Ikram, MD, PhD,and Ayesha Sajjad, MD Department of Epidemiology Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam Rotterdam, The Netherlands Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The occurrence of cognitive impairment and dementia after a stroke event are already known. Since these neuro-degenerative processes and stroke share vascular pathways in their pathogenesis such as small vessel disease, we aimed to study whether early cognitive impairment can be predictive of stroke onset in the elderly. We also hypothesized that a higher cognitive reserve (due to higher education attainment) may mask early symptoms of memory loss and thus put these older individuals at a higher risk of stroke. We found that self-reported subjective memory complaints as answered by a single question: “ Do you have memory complaints?” was highly predictive of stroke especially in older persons who were highly educated. In comparison, objective measures of cognitive impairment such as MMSE did not show any association with the risk of stroke. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, JAMA, OBGYNE, UC Davis / 10.12.2014

Cheryl K. Walker, MD Associate Professor Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology Faculty, The MIND Institute School of Medicine, University of California, Davis MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Cheryl K. Walker, MD Associate Professor Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology Faculty, The MIND Institute School of Medicine, University of California, Davis Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Walker: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurobehavioral condition identified in 1 in 68 U.S. children and is part of a broader group of developmental disabilities that affects 1 in 6 children.  Growing evidence suggests that Autism spectrum disorder and developmental delay originate during fetal life.  Preeclampsia is a complicated and frequently dangerous pregnancy condition that appears to arise from a shallow placental connection and may increase the risk of abnormal neurodevelopment through several pathways. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Walker: Children with Autism spectrum disorder were more than twice as likely to have been exposed to preeclampsia compared with children with typical development.  Risk for ASD was increased further in children born to mothers with more severe presentations of preeclampsia.  Mothers of children with developmental delay were more than 5 times more likely to have had severe forms preeclampsia – often with evidence of reduced placental function – compared with mothers of children with typical development. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Memory / 09.12.2014

Sandra Barral Rodriguez, Ph.D Assistant Professor G. H. Sergievsky Center & Taub Institute Columbia University Medical Center New York, NY 10032MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Sandra Barral Rodriguez, Ph.D Assistant Professor G. H. Sergievsky Center & Taub Institute Columbia University Medical Center New York, NY 10032 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Barral: We already know that there is a substantial genetic contribution to the variability observed in different cognitive tasks including memory performance. Previous work reported heritability estimates for episodic memory ranging between 30% and 60%. However, we can’t fully explain why some individuals demonstrate a better memory performance in late life, while others do not. We have previously defined a cognitive endophenotype based on exceptional episodic memory performance (EEM) and demonstrated that there is a familial aggregation of EEM in families selected on their basis of their exceptional survival, the Long Life Family Study. We performed genome-wide linkage analysis of long-lived families selected on the basis of their exceptional episodic memory and the follow-up SNP association analysis with episodic memory in four independent cohorts of more than 4,000 non-demented elderly cohorts. Our results provide strong evidence for potential candidate genes related to exceptional episodic memory on 6q24. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, PTSD / 05.12.2014

James L . Spira, PhD, MPH, ABPP Professor, Department of Psychiatry, John A Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii Director, National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs, Pacific Islands DivisionMedicalResearch.com Interview with: James L . Spira, PhD, MPH, ABPP Professor, Department of Psychiatry, John A Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii Director, National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs, Pacific Islands Division Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Spira:  Approximately 1.5 million Americans survive a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from traffic accidents, assaults, sports, and work injuries, with the vast majority of these being primarily mild (mTBI), otherwise known as concussion.1 Concussion, however, is uniquely problematic in the military given the new strategies of war encountered by service members when fighting an insurgency using improvised explosive devices. The rate of concussion experienced by United States (U.S.) service members engaging in combat during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been estimated at between 15% and 22%.2–4There has been controversy in the area of neurotrauma as to whether persistent postconcussive symptoms (PPCSx) are due to neurological causes or solely due to the psychological sequelae of having been exposed to a traumatic event.  The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have afforded an opportunity to examine these factors, although teasing them apart has proven difficult.  The most influential study of persistent effects of concussion in service members is that of Hoge and colleagues,5 in which they failed to find an independent effect of prior concussion on PPCSx, once depression and posttraumatic stress (PTSD) was taken into account.  They went so far as to recommend that assessment for concussion following deployment is unnecessary.  Others, however, have reported persistent cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms following concussion. (more…)